Skip to navigation

Skip to main content


July 2004, Volume 11, Number 3

Japan, Korea

Japan has cracked down on foreign students who overstay their visas, jailing them for several days, fining them up to 300,000 yen, and barring their re-entry for up to five years. The Justice Ministry reported that 220,000 foreigners violated their visas in 2003, and another 30,000 foreigners were smuggled into Japan: most were Chinese. In 2003, police say foreigners committed 40,615 crimes in Japan.

A government web site asks Japanese to report suspected foreign overstayers.

South Korea. Many illegal foreign workers in South Korea for more than four years have gone into hiding since a crackdown began in November 2003. A new guest worker program is to come into effect on August 17, 2004, and long-term unauthorized foreigners caught in Korea will be barred from re-entry.

There were an estimated 131,000 illegal migrant workers in January 2004, and 166,000 in July 2004, suggesting that the crackdown by 200 agents has not reduced the presence of illegal foreigners. The government is considering raising fines on employers of unauthorized migrants, currently 20 million won.

Korea has signed MOUs with six labor-sending countries that anticipate the arrival of 25,000 foreign workers from the Philippines, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, and is in negotiations with China and Kazakhstan. If Korean employers cannot find local workers after one month, they are permitted under the MOUs to have foreign workers admitted with three-year work permits. Only manufacturers with fewer than 300 employees, construction firms and agriculture can hire legal foreign workers.

Kim Rahn, "Work Permit System for Foreigners to Debut Next Month," Korea Times, July 6, 2004. Soh Ji-young, "Migrant Workers live in Fear," Korea Times, May 6, 2004.